Leah Stewart Named New Sewanee Writers’ Conference Director

Leah Stewart

We are excited to announce that Leah Stewart, professor and chair of the English Department at the University of Cincinnati, will be the new director of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. She will succeed founding director Wyatt Prunty, who will step down at the close of this summer’s session after leading the Conference for 30 years. Leah will be in residence in Sewanee for the month of July.

Leah brings to the position great familiarity with, and affection for, the Conference. She is dedicated to ensuring that the Conference remains a community that is chiefly concerned with developing writers through studying craft and providing professional opportunities. She also has a long history with Sewanee. Leah worked on the SWC staff from 1995 through 2004, and also served on faculty for the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference. Her fifth book, The New Neighbor, is set in Sewanee. 

Many thanks to the search committee, made up of nationally prominent writers and members of the Conference community, who assisted in this process. The committee was impressed by Leah’s talent as an administrator, in addition to her being an award-winning author. She chairs a department of more than 50 faculty and manages a program with 200 majors and 100 graduate students.

Leah Stewart’s novels Body of a Girl, The Myth of You and Me, Husband and Wife, The History of Us, The New Neighbor, and What You Don’t Know About Charlie Outlaw, as well as her short stories and nonfiction, have garnered awards and prizes including the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction and a National Endowment of the Arts Literary Fellowship.

Stewart earned a BA in English from Vanderbilt University and an MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan. She has taught at Vanderbilt and Murray State University, where she was the Watkins Endowed Visiting Professor of Creative Writing. At the University of Cincinnati, she served as director of creative writing from 2012 to 2017 before becoming chair of the English Department.

“Writers arrive in Sewanee,” Stewart said, “to find a rare place with a palpable intellectual curiosity, where everyone loves literature, where a roomful of people can be united in the sheer pleasure of a beautifully written line—for many, that’s paradise. The Conference was a crucial part of my own development as a writer, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to both maintain the vital sense of community it creates and work to expand that community. It’s an honor to take over from Wyatt Prunty, who has helped provide so many people the chance to grow artistically and professionally.”